By Jim & Tony Nordland

     Defending team champion Penn State returns four NCAA titlists and will be seeking their eighth national title. The Nittany Lions will be challenge by 2018 runner-up Ohio State and a well balanced Oklahoma State squad.  Other top tier teams are perennial power Iowa, Missouri, Michigan, the Big Red of Cornell, NC State and Minnesota.

     Penn State's two time champions Jason Nolf (104-4 career, 56 falls) at 157 and Bo Nickal (108-3), now at 197, are the team leaders, along with Lorenzo Joseph ( a local Pittsburgh native) at 165 and 2017 winner and 2018 finalist Mark Hall (174). That quartet and returning AA unbeaten Shakur Rasheed (15-0) of Longwood HS at 184 give them firepower and a boatload of NCAA points. 

     At the 2018 NCAA meet, two true freshman garnered titles; Spencer Lee (125) of Iowa and Yianni Diakomihalis (Hilton HS) of Cornell. As many will recall Diakomihalis (11-0, 52-1 career) suffered a knee injury in the quarterfinals vs Dean Heil (Okla State) and was able to defeat three quality opponents en route to the 141-pound crown.

     Other reigning champions include; Seth Gross (133) of South Dakota State and junior Zahid Valencia (88-2 career) of Arizona State at 174, along with former champ Myles Martin (Ohio State), top-ranked at 184 pounds.

     The Empire State will have a solid contingent of NCAA qualifiers including two All-Americans, Nick Piccininni (20-0) of Ward Melville a Southern Scuffle champ of Oklahoma Sate at 125 and Maryland's Youssif Hemida (Mamoreneck HS) at 285. Other NY standouts are Vito Arujau (14-1) of  Syosset of Cornell and Dylan Ryder (14-9) of  Hills West of Hofstra, both at 125, veteran Bryan Lantry (Wayne) of Buffalo at 141, Jesse Dellavecchia (East Islip) of Rider at 165, along with Binghamton teammates Frank Garcia (Norwich) at 149 and highly-touted freshman Lou DePrez (Hilton) at 184 pounds. The Big Red of Cornell also have Ben Honis (Jamesville-DeWitt) in the 197-pound c lass.

Mat Notes:

     The last time the NCAAs were held in Pittsburgh was in 1957, won by Oklahoma. Buckeye head coach Tommy Ryan (Wantagh) boasts a solid lineup including a trio of returning All-Americans and last year had an impressive eight grapplers  earn AA accolades. Look to Rutgers to have a solid showing and the Scarlet Knights will be paced by finalist Nick Suriano (133) and three-time All-American and Big Ten champion Anthony Ashnault, he could face nemesis and top-ranked Matthew Kolodzik (Princeton) in the 149-title bout.

     The Oklahoma State Cowboys, winners of an NCAA leading 34 mat titles, have a trio of solid lightweights;. the aforementioned Piccininni, Daton Fix (133) and Kaid Brock at 141 pounds. Also keep an eye on Minnesota  true freshman Gable Stevenson, a potential finalist in the 285-pound bracket.

     The 89th edition of the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships will be held at the PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, PA, on March 21st-23rd.

Shakur Rasheed

(Penn State)

Nick Piccininni

(Oklahoma State)

Zahid Valencia

(Arizona State)

Bryan Lantry


Youssif Hemida


Spencer Lee


Bo Nickal

(Penn State)

Yianni Diakomihalis


Jason Nolf

(Penn State)


Dylan Ryder